The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Baker's Dozen

Worker's Playtime: Billy Bragg's Favourite Albums
Colm McAuliffe , March 18th, 2013 07:47

To celebrate the release of his notably personal new album Tooth & Nail today, the outspoken, political singer-songwriter talks Colm McAuliffe through his top records


Ry Cooder – Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down
I've been a fan of Cooder from back in the day. And he's probably made the most political records I've heard in the last few years with Pull Up The Dust and Election Special. And, on top of that, he's channelling Woody Guthrie, writing songs in that idiom. He's my guitar hero on account of what he doesn't play. He's very economical, there's the space there he leaves - if I could play guitar like anyone, it would be Ry Cooder. I saw a clip on YouTube of him and David Lindley playing somewhere and he was playing a electric mandolin with only six strings, playing like a guitar with slide on it. I was looking at it thinking: "wow. That's how you do it!" I don't see myself as a musician, I'm just a guitar player. A musician to me is someone who reads music… but listening to Cooder, I hear the guitar lines and phrases that I think I'm gonna try. Even as far back as ‘Levi Stubbs' Tears’, on the b-side, there's me and producer John Porter on mandolin doing an acoustic version of 'There Is Power In The Union' just like Ry Cooder does ‘Rally Round the Flag’ on Boomer's Story. The best music that has come out of these islands over the last thirty years has been influenced by American music, black American music in particular and I'm no different. It's always been there. Having worked with Guthrie and Wilco so closely: surprise, surprise, I've made an album that is American-ish, or, as I would say, it's just roots. You can't keep making the same record over and over again. People who are turning around and saying "you've gone all American on this new record" obviously haven't been listening for the last thirty years!